Mount Apo: Climbing the Roof of the Philippines

Mount Apo, also known locally as Apo Sandawa, is a large solfataric, active stratovolcano on the island of Mindanao, Philippines. With an elevation of 2,954 meters (9,692 ft) above sea level, it is the highest mountain in the Philippine Archipelago and is located between Davao City and Davao del Sur province in Region XI and Cotabato in Region XII. The peak overlooks Davao City 45 kilometers (28 mi) to the northeast, Digos 25 kilometers (16 mi) to the southeast, and Kidapawan 20 kilometers (12 mi) to the west. Mount Apo is a protected area and a Natural Park of the Philippines. – Wikipedia

  • Max Elevation: 2954 masl
  • Trail: Kapatagan, Digos City (out and back trail)
  • Hike Date: January 10-12, 2020

It was in December 2019 when Akio invited me to Mt. Apo for January 2020. On that day, I was still hesitant because in the same month I already have applied for a vacation leave for Bali, so I am not using another 2-3 days’ vacation leave in the same month. I guess I was very fortunate that on the climb date it will also be our transition to the morning shift. I booked my tickets to Davao a week before this climb and I did not regret it. Mt. Apo was once a dream when my cousins were able to reach the summit in 2003, and we weren’t there.

MY PREPARATION 

My last climb was still in November 2019 at Tarak Ridge, pretty obvious that I didn’t have any practice nor preparations. But you just can’t underestimate the mountains. When I went back home, I spent 2 days of running for only 10KMS, and when I went back to Manila, I had 3 days of running 10KMS. Guess what? IT WASN’T ENOUGH.

Things I brought- I had a 13kgs load upon ascending to Camp Gudi-Gudi and that includes the following:’

  1. Naturehikesleeping bag.
  2. Ridge 1 Tent
  3. 2L Gatorade
  4. 1L H2o – as there are water sources along the way.
  5. Headlamp
  6. 1 poncho
  7. 1 Columbia Interchange jacket
  8. Essentials & toiletries (Deodorant, sunscreen medicines) 3 leggings, 1 long sleeve, 3 shirts, 1 sarong, 1 pair of slippers.
  9. Camping dish set (haha plastic ware, spoon & fork and cup)
  10. Powerbank and phones.
  11. Extra plastic bags.
  12. Trail foods (Jelly ace & lollipops)

++ I put my clothes on the porter’s load and when we went back, I included my tent.

Day 0: THE ARRIVAL AND MEET-UP IN DAVAO CITY.

After my shift, I went directly to NAIA for my 10AM flight. I WAS ALMOST LATE due to some reasons that the taxi driver went to Kalayaan back to C5. It was so timely when the Cebu Pacific staff announced my name, I was already near the boarding gate. When I arrived in Davao, I took some rest at my cousin’s house while waiting for my friends from Cebu. At 6:00 PM, I met them at Sarphil. We had our last preparations and buy at Robinsons-Bajada. We spent our night at PARIS for P1600 for 4 persons in 12 hours.

  • Park Avenue Residence Inn & Suites
  • Address: J.P. Laurel, corner Park Ave, Bajada, Davao City, 8000 Davao del Sur
  • Phone: (082) 222 8331

Day 1 –CHANGE OF PLANS, CHANGE OF TRAIL.

===========================================

MORNING:

Our call time was at 5AM going to, I guess Sibulan trail (I WAS UNSURE OF OUR JUMP-OFF THAT TIME). The team then fetched us at PARIS. It was early in the morning, but I guess everyone had a good rest.

“The expectation was to go through the Sibulan Trail, the summit is just very near the jump-off and the trail isn’t that difficult.” My not-so prepared body was happy as my legs and feet weren’t prepared for a long walk. Along our way to Sibulan trail’s jump-off, we then met Pawpaw, our guide and we learned that Sibulan trail was closed. If we really wanted to go to Apo, we need to go through the Digos Trail. IT WAS’T EASY.  All of us didn’t have a medical certificate and we kind of not ready for the additional costs and there was a sudden change of guide. Then I remembered the very reason why I don’t want to organize a group tour. I don’t like changes that will affect other people… if it’s only me, then it’s absolutely okay. So, here’s what happened when we learned that we will go through the Digos Trail/Kapatagan Trail:

  • We didn’t have climbing permits.
  • We didn’t have medical certificates, plus they needed an ECG result.
  • The additional cost can be adjusted, so it’s not a big issue.
  • The schedule was adjusted the moment the Sibulan trail was canceled.

We had our breakfast in Digos while Pawpaw and DK were arranging our climbing permits at the tourism. The moment of awkwardness and silence led to no choice but to the Digos/Kapatagan Trail. I literally wasn’t ready for a long walk, but I thought that all these expenses will be worth it if we will go to a longer trail—I was excited! And since we didn’t have medical certificates, we went to Sunga Hospital and had our ECGs (P220) and we had our orientation after our ECG results were given to Pawpaw.

==========ORIENTATION==========

Here are few reminders for DIGOS CITY TRAIL – KAPATAGAN TRAIL as of January 10, 2019:

  • Trekking and other fees: There are two different rates for peak season and low season.
    Peak Season (Holy Week) – P1500/person
    Low Season – P1000/person

    • Inclusive: Trekker’s ID, Orientation, Certificate of Climb
    • Exclusive: Entrance fee/exit fee to any other trails. Guide and Porter fee.
    • An additional of the same fee will be collected to those who will exit on a different trail/season.
    • Local and foreign tourists, students and children will have the same trekking fee.
    • 20% off for Senior Citizens. No ID, no discount.
  • Guide & Porter fees
    • Guide: No guide. No climb
      •  P1000/day
      • 1 Guide/5 Trekkers
    • Porter: 500/day
      • Additional of P50/kg in excess of 15 kg
      • In excess of 20kg, trekkers are required an additional porter
      • Fees are exclusive of food for both guide and porter.
    • For traverse, please provide for their fare.
    • In addition, it’s also your prerogative to give an additional love gifts to your guide and porters.
  • “No Walk-in Trekkers” policy. All trekkers should pre-booked through the LGU and accredited tour operators and travel agencies.
  • Children Trekkers: All 15 years old and below are not allowed to climb without a parent or a guardian. In addition, all children should secure a DSWD certification of liability
  • Paradise Checkpoint to Jump-off site:
    • Entrance/exit
    • Submit bags for inspection – DO NOT BRING WET WIPES 😊
    • Weighing of porter’s bag.
    • There will be a penalty of P2000 for littering.

For complete details, just contact the Digos City tourism office.

==========END OF ORIENTATION==========

After the orientation, we went to one of the health centers to weigh ourselves and to have our BP checked. At 12:00 NN, we finally ended the whole process of getting the IDs. And to fill our hungry selves, we found kwek2 and buchis at the back of Sunga hospital.

We finally went to Kapatagan with full of excitement.

Kapatagan Digos Mount Apo (16)

In the afternoon.

Kuya Niting’s humble abode at the same time, the team’s jump-off.

We arrived at Kapatagan at 2:00 PM. We met Kuya Niting and his kiddo Mich—who’s been to Mt. Apo for 16x. That’s one of the requirements to be an accredited guide for Digos Trail. We repacked our loads and prepped ourselves (arm sleeves, poncho, sunblock h20and cap ready)—yet I still have 13KG load.  We then started to trek at 3:00 PM.

Kapatagan Digos Mount Apo (15)

Gettin myself ready and my 13KG load. I’m still wondering how to lessen this-

Mt. Apo

Preppin’ up.

  • From Kuya Niting’s house to Paradise – It was an ascending road to paradise with a bunch of humps and boulders and other parts was covered in mud at that time since it just rained. This might be because of the horses that usually pass through this way. After almost 30 minutes, we arrived at Paradise.
    • There are small stores until Paradise.
    • Wet wipes are not allowed.
    • There are several water sources along the trail, so you can just bring a few liters of water.
    • Always follow the ribbon (may it be in orange or red), in case you get lost.
  • From Paradise to the Junction (7 294 ft) – 6.1KM
    • Along the way, we had seen several ascending potato vegetations. So we needed to pass beside the vegetation and made sure that we haven’t stepped on these plants.
    • We also had seen several stables for the horses and beautiful flowers and orchids.
    • The trail is very established yet there were still times that it was confusing.
    • There is a water source between the Paradise and the Junction.
  • Junction (7294 ft) – Baruring River (7279 ft)
    • We arrived at the Junction at almost 6:00 PM and it was already dark. We just took some rest to ready ourselves to a monkey-trail like to reach Baruring River, then Gudi-Gudi.
  • Baruring River (7279 ft) – Camp Gudi-Gudi (7520 ft) = 1.4 KM
    • It was dark, so I can’t really say how the trail looks like (I attached few snippets of the trail below and those were taken when we descended). From Baruring River (water source) to Camp Gudi-Gudi, everything was ascending. In addition, we loved the water here.
  • Baruring River (7279 ft) – Mt. Apo Peak = 3.6 KM
  • At 8:30 PM, we (I was one of the last persons to arrive at the campsite) finally arrived at Camp Gudi-Gudi

What does the trail look like from the jump-off to Camp Gudi Gudi + my Timeline?

Mt. Apo

Mount Apo, Kapatagan, Digos City, Davao

To Paradise. it’s because of the horses, that’s why the road/trail looks like this. It just doesn’t stop there—That’s how the trail looks like until we reached the Junction.

Mt. Apo

Mt. Apo from afar @Paradise.

Mt. Apo

Few reminders. @Paradise.

Mt. Apo

Mt. Apo

Sure, it’s a calm trail…

Mt. Apo

A lil rest after we got our ways separated.

Mt. Apo

And it’s almost getting dark.

Mt. Apo

The Junction at past 6:00 PM.

The trail from the Junction to Baruring River was tiring… It’s like a monkey trail… there were a lot of trees that you needed to either go in between of the vertical trees or go up… There was also a part where the soil is loose and the way going down was pretty steep. So it was pretty challenging for us, and especially that up until now, I haven’t still gotten over my fear with worms. The trail was damp, especially the sun couldn’t penetrate on it.  We had our last quick stop at Baruring River, we filled out empty water bottles and ate before we ascended.  From Baruring River everything is an ascend.

We were the last persons to reach the campsite. I had a bad headache, yet I oriented myself that I needed to be okay so that I can go to the summit in the morning. I pitched my tent, missed the dinner and took a rest (That’s why it’s a must to bring medicines and ointments.).

Day  2 – TO THE SUMMIT but first BOULDERS; SOCIALS

===========================================

I slept out. We talked the night before that we will be ascending at 3AM, but when I woke up at 2:45, the campsite was verrry silent and it seemed everyone wasn’t bothered if they can see the sunrise or not… all we want is the summit! So, I slept again, eventually, Pawpaw woke up everyone at 4:30AM and we started to ascend at 5:00 AM. And OH? Both of my phones were dead as well as my power bank. So, I just asked everyone to take a picture of me. 😀

Mt. Apo

Mt. Matutuom’s Peak from afar.

Mt. Apo

Almost the boulders… P.S. Bring a hankie or face mask to cover your face from sulfur as well as gloves to protect your hands. On my case, I missed to use sunblock, I didn’t use the hankie and the gloves that Pawpaw gave the whole time as I am not pretty comfortable using those during hikes, but sure, it helped. I just had my cap and sunglassess – and got burned and still, never-ending colds. UMBRELLA is very much welcome too! 🙂

Mt. Apo

Obviously, we weren’t able to watch how the sun rose. It’s a long way to go to the White Sand.

From afar, we saw Mt. Matutum’s peak. Maybe one of these days, I can climb that too. It was about 1 hour when we started to go through the boulders and sulfur vents of Mt. Apo and another hour until we reached the White Sand. White sand as they say because it’s filled with beach sand. We also met several trekkers who came from Sta. Cruz trail. We were just thankful to Pawpaw, DK and Kuya Niting’s team for the sumptuous brunch.

Mt. Apo

Mt. Apo

so near, yet so far.

At 9:30 AM, we started to ascend to the crater. We just took a few shots and then proceeded to the mother summit at 10:00AM. The sea of clouds is real. We stayed in the summit for a long time. While the team is on the mother summit, Pawpaw and I went to the Kidapawan summit, and finally I was able to step foot on the summit on my 2nd attempt. My first attempt was via the EDC Trail, unfortunately, I was sick and I only stayed on the bunkhouse—that’s I guess 2 hours away from the summit.

Mt. Apo

Pathway to the mother summit from the crater. Overlooking view of the crater and the sulfur vents and the boulders.

Mt. Apo

A lil contrast and brightness.

Apo

No enhancements.

Mt. Apo

It was surreal to have this this ‘sea of clouds’ experience.

Mt. Apo

While waiting for my turn, we were really amazed and so blessed with the clearing. The 360 view of Mt. Apo’s summit is breathtaking. Eventually, this side was covered with clouds.

Kapatagan Digos Mount Apo (10)

Finally, my turn! 🙂

Mt. Apo

And finally, our group picture!

Pawpaw and I went to the Kidapawan summit since it’s just a few meters away—I remembered this should be the summit that I should have scaled in February 2019, but then I was sick and just stayed in the bunkhouse. Along the way to the Kidapawan Summit is the overlooking view of the famous Lake Venado.

Mt. Apo

The mother summit from Kidapawan Summit’s POV.

Mt. Apo

Along the way to Kidapawan Summit we have seen this majestic view of  Lake Venado.

Mt. Apo

The Kidapawan Summit.

Mt. Apo

Mt. Apo

Yay! One happy feelingerang tigkatkat here. 🙂

Before going back to the crater, somewhere in between of the (3) summits lies a water source. We filled ourselves with a decent amount of H2o and refilled our water bottles before going through the boulders again.

Mt. Apo

Mt. Apo’s Crater.

Mt. Apo

We were very grateful for the wisdom, guidance and very nice clearing.

Mt. Apo

No enhancements. Pure iPhone 11 Pro. haha! Behind me are the boulders and the White Sand. A POV from the crater.

At 1:00 PM, we descended from the crater. The weather was still fine when we were in the boulders but along the way, the clouds already covered our way. When the way was cleared up, we found ourselves far left from where we started in the morning.

At 2:00 PM, we were almost at the bottom of the boulders. Almost.

Mt. Apo

Almost the final leg of the boulders and the sulfur vents. Earlier, this part was covered with fog. We just can’t see which part of the trail we took in the morning. The bottom of the boulders were filled with fog and clouds. We were not able to see those who were ahead of us. Dudz and I just continue to descend and just followed the ribbon. Eventually, when the area was cleared from fog and clouds we finally determine where to go and we realized that our direction should go right. I couldn’t remember where we took this picture early morning.

Mt. Apo

Finally, it’s almost at the bottom of the boulders. We, the sweep. We’re glad that everyone is safe and sound. We had some challenges of descending, but thanks to these guys (DK, Ray) for the help.

At 3:30 PM, we finally arrived at Camp Gudi-Gudi. Glad that everyone was fine. The way from the boulders back to the campsite was misty and we experienced little showers—maybe because of the clouds that surrounded us. It was very fulfilling, and sure I am gonna miss this day.

We spent the rest of the hours for our rest and socials.

  • There’s a water source just around the summit.
  • No e-camp allowed at the White Sand as of Jan 12, 2020.

Day 3 – DESCENT, HOMEWARD BOUND

===========================================

Kapatagan Digos Mount Apo (1)

Our final day. Everyone’s trip was still in the evening. We were not in a rush to go back to the jump-off by that time. We woke up late. I woke up late with my lips that were swollen and my face was burning hot. Lil did I realize that I got a sunburn. I remembered that, I didn’t apply sunblock, I didn’t have a cap and I didn’t have any protection when we went to the summit, except for my shades. and the hankie that I didn’t use the whole time because it’s too uncofmortable for me. My colds were getting worse. 

Mt. Apo

Before break-camp.

Mt. Apo

And this social table saw the happiness of everyone. We were amazed with the monkeys living on this area. 

Bidding goodbye to Camp Gudi-Gudi. We made friends! 🙂

We finally had our ‘break-camp’ at 9:00AM and descended at 9:30 AM. The guys went ahead, I was in the middle. I was trying to check how slow or how fast my pace was until we reached the junction and that made me part of the sweeper again. I reached the Junction at 10:50 AM and waited for the rest of the guys. I was able to see the beauty of the Kapatagan trail.

Kapatagan Digos Mount Apo (4)

Remeber that if you will get lost in the middle of the trail, just look for the ribbon. Other mountains in Mindanao have ribbons too.

Kapatagan Digos Mount Apo (2)

Kapatagan Digos Mount Apo (3)

Kapatagan Digos Mount Apo (5)

The trail approaching the Junction from Baruring River.

Kapatagan Digos Mount Apo (7)

Junction

It rained. As we were descending from the Junction, my legs were already hurting and I felt that every time I bend my knees, it just can’t until I set my goal—to get home ASAP. Upon thinking that the whole time, I had never-ending falls and slips. It was awful. My lamest me.

Kapatagan Digos Mount Apo (8)

Wild strawberries.

After a long walk, we finally arrived at Kuya Niting’s house at 2:05 PM. We freshen up ourselves and fed our hungry bellies. I’m just glad our trail was changed.

Kapatagan Digos Mount Apo (9)

Davao City-bound.

It finally rained after everyone arrived at Kuya Niting’s humble abode. We were just thankful for the wisdom and guidance to each and everyone, the very good weather and for the safe and sound climb.

Mt. Apo

Thank you to Pawpaw, DK and Kuya Niting for everything. Mt. Taal just spewed ashed on the same afternoon… So? I got another day to stay in Davao City.

Contact/Organizer/Guide: Pawpaw &  DK Mt. Apo Adventure 

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